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stepping stones of maritime history


The Glenn Martin M574 was part of a patrol of 1- VLGIII flying from Tjililitan to Tarakan on 3 January 1941 for a multi-day exercise. Immediately after take-off, the M574 lost formation with the other two aircraft due to bad weather. The M574 was flown that day by Reserve Sergeant Pilot Ernest van Galen, a professional civilian pilot with the KNILM airline. It was his first flight as a pilot for the Netherlands East Indies Air Force (NEI-AF). On board was brigadier (corporal) mechanic Harry Janssen. Mechanics did maintenance on the ground and always flew with their own aircraft as mechanic and air gunner. 
After circling for an hour, the M574 returned to Tjililitan and only flew to Tarakan the next day in better weather. There, the patrol commander, 1e Lieutenant J.C. Timmer, and the crews of the other two aircraft were waiting for them. Immediately after landing, Timmer gave van Galen an unprecedented scolding, Janssen said. How he had dared to return to Tjililitan. Timmer would teach him to fly! It shows how differently a commercial pilot and a military pilot view such a situation. One is concerned with a safe flight for passengers and aircraft, the other wants to carry out his mission at almost any cost.

The aircraft were to conduct extremely long sea reconnaissance for a month to photograph Japanese
fishermen and Japanese logging settlements on Borneo's east coast. To do so, two aircraft, the M574 and the M575, would have to pick up long range fuel tanks at the Samarinda II auxiliary airfield, 200 km northwest of Balikpapan.
Janssen had pulled a 'bakkie' (prank) on 4e January and Timmer had grounded him for a month.
Nevertheless, Janssen climbed into 'his' M574 because it was the way it was supposed to be and the patrol mechanic, Sergeant Barendrecht, had instructed him to do so. Lieutenant Timmer flew the 574 as first pilot and Van Galen as second to teach Van Galen the promised lesson. Just before take-off, Timmer noticed Janssen on board and ejected him from the aircraft. Barendrecht ran to the 574 and
started an argument with Timmer who got so angry he almost smashed the dashboard. Janssen had to stay on the ground anyway and brigadier mechanic Jan van Valen took off as a replacement.
Immediately after take-off, the aircraft lost sight of each other in a heavy downpour. The radio operators did stay in contact.
The 574 was flying at 800 metres and the 575 at 1,500 metres. After 22 minutes, the connection between the aircraft broke up and after landing at Samarinda IlI, the 574 failed to show up. Also at Tarakan the aircraft had not returned. After several hours, the M574 was reported missing.
In all likelihood, the cause of the mishap lies in inadequate maps of the area between Tarakan and Samarida, foothills of the Njapa Mountains. In particular, the altitudes indicated on the map were often inaccurate. The map showed mountain peaks of 730 metres when in reality they were as high
as 1,300 metres.


The aircraft remained missing for a year until, shortly after the outbreak of war, in January 1942, a KNIL infantry patrol went in search of the Glenn Martin M571 lost in an attack on Miri in British Borneo. Instead of the 571, they found the M574 with four remains of the crew of five in the wreckage, bearing identity tags. These bodies were buried by the patrol in a field grave next to the wreckage. Van Galen was not in the aircraft. Was he ejected from the plane in the crash? Or did he
survive the crash and succumb to his injuries somewhere else in the jungle? The official reports of this patrol were lost during the war. The brother of Van Galen's widow and NEI-AF pilot Jhr Wittert van Hoogland described the story of the infantry patrol after the war.


The wreckage was discovered in 2019 by an Indonesian research group. From pictures, the wreck seems to be relatively intact and complete, with recognisable parts: fuselage, engines, tail section etc.

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